No citizenship for West Pak. refugees: J&K govt.

December 23, 2016 01:16 am | Updated 01:16 am IST - Srinagar:

Facing a huge outcry from the Opposition and separatist groups, the government said on Thursday that refugees from West Pakistan (WP) were not entitled to permanent residence in J&K.

“Unlike refugees of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), the West Pakistan refugees are not entitled to permanent residence. These refugees are not domiciles of J&K. We are issuing mere identity cards. It does not clash with the State Subject matter. Any such perception is ill-conceived,” State Education Minister Naeem Akhtar told The Hindu .

‘Misleading campaign’

Mr. Akhtar, also J&K government spokesman, clarified that issuing identity certificates would not grant them the right to vote or seek employment. An “orchestrated and misleading” campaign was being launched, he said.

Around 1.5 lakh West Pakistan refugees, mainly Hindus, migrated to Jammu, Samba and Kathua in 1947 from Pakistan’s Punjab province. The WP refugees have no land rights, but can vote in Parliament polls. “These certificates will help them [the refugees] get jobs in paramilitary forces and other Central government establishments,” said Mr. Akhtar.

National Conference (NC) general secretary Ali Muhammad Sagar said his party would oppose any move to issue domicile certificates. “The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) claimed that the Agenda of Alliance with the BJP agreed not to touch Article 370. However, such moves are anti-people and anti-J&K,” Mr. Sagar said.

State Congress chief G.A. Mir called for a discussion in the Assembly. “Questions will arise if any decision is taken without taking the House into confidence,” he said.

In a joint statement, separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik, have called for protests on Friday. “Indian rulers intend to tear and tarnish every fabric of our identity and dignity. These refugees can be rehabilitated elsewhere. The move is made to change J&K’s demography,” they alleged.

PoK-based United Jehad Council (UJC) chief Syed Salahuddin asked Pakistan not to remain a mute spectator. “India is repeating in Kashmir what Israel has done in Palestine. Pakistan is a party to the dispute and it ought to play its role,” he said.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesman Nafees Zakaria alleged violation of UNSC resolutions. The move was part of the PDP-BJP regime’s nefarious designs to change the demographic composition of the territory, he said.

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